American Indian Probate Reform Act (AIPRA) and Indian Wills

For years CILS has prioritized the preservation and enhancement of the California Indian land base in California. Part of this work correlates with assisting individuals that have an Indian allotment or an interest in an allotment to understand their rights better and sometimes their responsibilities to future generations. CILS has conducted numerous presentations over the years regarding Native landowners’ rights under the American Indian Probate Reform Act (AIPRA) and the importance of careful estate planning for Indian trust assets. The AIPRA, enacted in 2004, provides for a national uniform inheritance scheme in situations where there is no valid Indian Will. The inheritance scheme is one that not every Indian trust holder may wish to have applied when determining who will inherit their trust assets. Unless an individual leaves a valid Indian Will, AIPRA’s scheme may control their trust property’s future. CILS presentations and Indian Will drafting help individuals make informed decisions. Typically, individuals have specific questions and concerns that they may not wish to voice to family members or friends but that CILS staff can address. All CILS offices provide Indian Will drafting for those holding Indian trust assets.

CILS Indian Will services are no-cost to those who qualify for our free legal services. For those who are over-income, CILS provides Indian Will drafting at an hourly rate – typically to cover the cost. While CILS does not generally take on work for individuals who are over-income, our Indian Wills practice is an exception. Most California private estate planning attorneys do not draft Indian Wills; their focus is upon those assets coming strictly under California state inheritance laws. Many of these private attorneys shy away from drafting Indian Wills, in part because of the perceived complexities involving Indian trust assets including Federal regulations, tribal codes, the AIPRA and the myriad of administrative agencies within the Department of the Interior. For CILS, however, this services is part of our common practice – and is much-needed throughout Indian Country.

CILS is available for Indian Wills/Indian estate planning presentations and Indian Will clinics.  Tribes can contact their local CILS office to arrange this service. Individuals holding Indian trust assets, such as allotment or heirship interests or Individual Indian Money (IIM) accounts, can also contact their local CILS office and speak with a representative about their eligibility for Indian Will drafting services.

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TRIBAL ALERT: NEW 2019 Youth Diversion Program Grants

To All Tribal Leaders:

California Indian Legal Services encourages tribes to review and apply for a new grant through the California Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC). The 2018 Budget Act established grant programs to focus on diverting youth who commit low-level offenses from initial contact with the juvenile justice system. The current funding amount of the Tribal Youth Diversion Grant Program is approximately $1 million, and the funding for this grant is up for reauthorization this year. We encourage tribes to apply for the grant as a demonstrated interest in the funding will show support and need for funding in this area. We will send out another Tribal Alert soliciting support for an increase in the Tribal Youth Diversion Grant Program funding on a later date.

The Request for Proposals (RFP) was released on January 17, 2019, for the two new grant programs with proposals due for on March 29, 2019.

Tribal Youth Diversion Grant Program

Current funding for this Program is $1,119,000.00 and is available only to federally recognized tribes in California. The funding must be used for a program that utilizes trauma-informed, community-based, and wellness-based interventions. The proposal may be a new or existing program – but if an existing program, this funding shall not replace existing funds from other federal, state, or local sources.

Examples of possible program proposals:
– Youth Diversion Court: where youth offenders attend an alternative court for resolution of the case instead of formal action with the juvenile justice system;
– Youth Courts: where youth offenders appear before their peers for resolution of a case;
– Early Intervention and Diversion Programs: where identified youth are referred to a community organization for coordinated support services to prevent the youth from entering the juvenile justice system; or
– Multidisciplinary Support Teams: where a team comprised of professionals from the mental health, education, juvenile justice, and/or drug/alcohol specialist provide supportive services to youth as an alternative to the formal juvenile justice system.

The examples above are not the only types of programs a tribal applicant must adhere to, and the Tribal Youth Diversion Grant Program also allows mentoring or tutoring programs to apply. Preference points will be given to regional applications that include an effort by more than one tribe. If your organization wishes to apply under this grant, the RFP details that there must be one lead tribal applicant and the participant tribes must submit a tribal council resolution detailing the tribe’s support and participation. A tribe will not need to meet a funding match requirement to be eligible.

Youth Reinvestment Grant Program

While funding under the Tribal grant is approximately $1 million, current funding under the Youth Reinvestment Grant is $37 million with awards of $500,000 – $1 million. Tribal organizations that work with tribal populations whose tribes are out-of-state and non-federally recognized tribes should apply for this grant. In preparing an application for this grant, the tribal organization will need to collaborate with a local government. This grant requires a funding match from the local government applicant.


An applicant may submit a non-binding Letter of Intent. The time period of submitting Letters of Intent for the Grants was due on February 20 and February 21, 2019. However, Letters of Intent are not required. Failure to submit a Letter of Intent DOES NOT disqualify an applicant.

Proposals for both Grants are due March 29, 2019, at 5:00 P.M. Applicants must submit a hard and electronic copy to the BCSS.

Please review both Requests for Proposals (RFPs) at If you have any questions or would like further information, please contact Mica Llerandi at Thank you.

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TRIBAL ALERT: Thank You, Tribes

CILS wants to thank all of the California tribes (72) and Indian organizations (11) that signed on to the amicus brief in the Brackeen et al. v. Zinke et al. case that is pending before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.  The following is a statement from the four defendant tribes that intervened in the case:

We applaud the broad coalition of federal lawmakers, attorneys general from 21 states, and 30 child welfare organizations who have joined 325 Tribal governments and 57 Tribal organizations in filing numerous amicus briefs with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to defend the Constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).

The past 96 hours have witnessed an unprecedented and overwhelming demonstration of support for ICWA, and its constitutionality as a wave of amicus briefs were filed urging the Fifth Circuit to reverse the district court’s ruling in Brackeen v. Zinke, which erroneously deemed key provisions of ICWA as being unconstitutional.

Passed more than 40 years ago by Congress, ICWA was designed to reverse decades of cultural insensitivity and political bias that had resulted in one-third of all Indian children being forcibly removed by the government from their families, their tribes and their cultural heritage.

ICWA ensures the best interests and wellbeing of Native American children are protected. ICWA preserves the stability and cohesion of Tribal families, Tribal communities and Tribal cultures. It maintains and reinforces the political and cultural connections between an Indian child and his or her tribe.

Review the amicus brief here.  CILS will continue to keep you updated on the progress of the case.

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TRIBAL ALERT: Deadline for Brackeen et al. v. Zinke Amicus Brief

To All Tribal Leaders:

Time is running out. If your tribe or tribal organization has not yet signed on to the amicus brief in the Brackeen v. Zinke being submitted by NARF, NCIA and over 100 tribes and 15 tribal consortia and Indian organizations please do so now.

Brackeen v. Zinke is a challenge to the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) in which a federal district court judge in Texas recently found ICWA to be unconstitutional. The case is currently on Appeal to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. ICWA has never been challenged as unconstitutional by any state, until now, and this case is therefore of significant concern to tribes, both for its potential effect on ICWA but also on potential ramifications for all of federal Indian law.

To sign on to the brief and/or obtain a copy of the draft brief to review, please send an email to NARF attorneys Dan Lewerenz and Erin Dougherty Lynch at and In your email please provides the following:

  1. A statement from an individual (chairperson, executive director, general counsel, etc.) or body (tribal council, board of directors etc.) authorized to do so, asking to be added as a signatory on the brief; and
  2. The full name and correct spelling of the tribe or organization as it should appear on the brief.
  3. For tribal consortia and Indian organizations, we will also need a short 50- to 75-word description of your organization. We can provide examples from other organizations if that is helpful. Tribes do not need to submit such a statement.

There is no cost to join the brief.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Dan Lewerenz at, Erin Dougherty Lynch at, Dorothy Alther at, or any CILS office.

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